Grand Theft Auto IV from Rockstar North, directed under the leadership of the legendary Houser brothers, brought the coveted sandbox series to the next-generation of gaming with the promise of episodic, downloadable content. Although the PlayStation 3 was kept out of the loop for a full year, the the Episodes from Liberty City have landed on the PlayStation Network and Blu-ray. Even two years after the release of the game, it is easy to see how the expansions reinvigorated Liberty City.
Each of the two episodes is essentially a separate entity under GTA IV, with independent Trophy lists, save data, characters, storylines; even the activities (like racing, golfing, etc.) are all-new. Besides the technical aspects, each episode comes with several gameplay improvements to suit the specific needs of each episode, new weapons, and even new vehicles. It is precisely this level of novelty that reinvigorates the installment.
What originally separated each Grand Theft Auto title from the others were the atmosphere. But since Episodes from Liberty City does not have the luxury of an all-new virtual world, Rockstar has made graphical tweaks to match the look and feel of each character’s narrative. While it is obvious that certain plot holes from GTA IV and were meant to be filled by the expansions from the beginning, the necessity for the downloadable content becomes more and more apparent as the tales of Luis Lopez and Johnny Klebitz progress.
Without a doubt, The Ballad of Gay Tony and The Lost and the Damned were originally crafted as fan service. Cameos, “easter eggs,” references to the other episodes, and even re-hashed cutscenes from the original game are aplenty. In both new chapters, players will experience a sense of nostalgia as more light is shed on the few cliffhangers remaining from Niko Belic’s adventure in Liberty City.